In this archive episode, Dennis explains searching homes and case laws surrounding this. Recorded on 07/26/2017.

Denise Brown v. State of NJ Explained

As of November 20, 2008, the precedent was not sufficiently clear to support a conclusion that Detective Steet violated clearly established law when he entered Brown’s home to secure it. And although police department policies do not hold compelling weight in a qualified immunity analysis, Detective Steet’s reliance on State Police training and policy is informative when determining the reasonableness of his conduct.

Detective Steet is entitled to qualified immunity as to Brown’s NJCRA claim because regardless of whether his conduct amounts to a violation of a constitutional right, that right was not clearly established at the time that he acted. (pp. 28-35)

7. The Court adds guidance going forward. In a case of true exigency and probable cause, the police can enter a dwelling. However, police-created exigency designed to subvert the warrant requirement has long been rejected as a basis to justify a warrantless entry into a home. Further, invocation of a person’s right to refuse an officer’s request for a consent search is not probative of wrongdoing and cannot be the justification for the warrantless entry into a home. In the future, law enforcement officials may not rely on McArthur to enter an apartment to secure it while awaiting a search warrant.

Although McArthur does not explicitly permit or forbid entry into a home, under those circumstances, this ruling makes clear that officers may not do so. They must get a warrant and, if reasonably necessary, may secure the apartment for a reasonable period of time from the outside. (pp. 35-37)

The judgment of the Appellate Division is REVERSED, and the trial court’s dismissal of this action against Detective Steet is REINSTATED.

JUSTICE ALBIN, DISSENTING, notes that in the wake of McArthur, courts understood, as they always have, that the securing of a home—awaiting a warrant application—cannot be justified absent exigent circumstances. According to Justice Albin, Brown had a clearly established right to remain secure in her home, pending the arrival of a warrant, given the absence of any true exigent circumstances to justify a seizure of her apartment. Detective Steet, therefore, is not entitled to the protection of qualified immunity, in Justice Albin’s view.